Trushar Patel, University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry:

Dr. Patel pursued his BSc and MSc degrees in Biotechnology from India, then joined the Univ. of Nottingham, the UK for his Ph.D. where he studied solution structure and interactions of plant polysaccharides. During his postdoctoral training at the Univ. of Manitoba, Canada, he studied the structures of human extracellular matrix proteins, and began studying RNA molecules in the later stages of his training. Subsequently, he joined the Univ. of Birmingham, UK as the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow to study the role of cytoskeleton proteins in cancer. He started his lab at the Univ. of Lethbridge in 2016 and received a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in RNA and Protein Biophysics in 2017. Since 2022, he has taken on an important leadership role as Associate Dean. Research in the Patel lab focuses on obtaining detailed insights into the structure and dynamics of non-coding RNAs, and understanding nucleic acid-protein communication events. This information is very useful for understanding many biological processes, including viral replication, and has the potential to inform the development of therapeutics, including antivirals. In simpler terms, work in the Patel lab helps researchers to visualize a three-dimensional view of biomolecules such as RNA, and helps us to understand their biological roles, including how they communicate with their RNA and protein binding partners. The lab employs interdisciplinary approaches, from computational to structural biophysics, to visualize large RNAs from humans and viruses-which is no simple challenge! Understanding the involvement of RNA in viral replication is an exciting and important problem, because RNA viruses greatly affect the livelihood of plants, animals, and humans, as we have witnessed through the COVID-19 pandemic. As a great example of the research emerging from the Patel lab, a recent study uncovered structural insights into RNA-RNA interactions within the genome of Japanese encephalitis virus:

Dr. Patel is intrigued by the mysterious nature of RNA structure, and finds RNA-RNA interactions-especially those of viral non-coding RNAs-to be a very exciting area of research. He has been enthralled with RNA as a macromolecule for many years because of its key roles in varied biological functions across all domains of life, and the fact that it remains relatively unexplored in terms of its structures. When asked about what advice he had for our RNA Canada ARN community, he said “Let us continue helping and supporting each other and investing our energy to train the next generation of talented researchers. Being nice does not take much effort.” Perhaps it is not a surprise that Dr. Patel’s favourite parts of being a PI are working with trainees (especially undergraduate and graduate students) and helping them figure out the next steps, while his least favourite parts include the continuous search for grant funding.

When Dr. Patel is not solving intricate RNA-RNA interactions and mentoring students, he enjoys watching movies, enjoying beverages, and biking. You can find Dr. Patel on X (formerly Twitter) @trushar_7, and learn more about his lab here: